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2015 Kia Rio REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Lacks the ride and handling sophistication of rivals; noisy cabin.

Interior: The 2015 Kia Rio's cabin has a restrained yet stylish look. The materials quality is nothing special in the base LX, but the added soft-touch surfaces, armrest cushioning and tasteful metallic accents found in the upper trims make the Rio's cabin one of the finest in the subcompact segment. We highly encourage you to go that extra mile to get an EX or SX, especially since they come with a truly impressive amount of additional equipment.

The Rio scores well in the areas of space and comfort. Even tall drivers should be comfortable behind the tilt-and-telescoping wheel (EX and SX models), while the backseat offers a competitive amount of space. It's the same story farther back, as the sedan has a generous 13.7-cubic-foot trunk. The hatchback is only a little bigger (14.9 cubic feet), but for maximum hauling potential the hatchback is still a good bet since folding the rear seats opens up 49.8 cubic feet of capacity, a good number for this class. Notably, the rear seats in all Rios are split 60/40 and fold completely flat.

Body: The 2015 Kia Rio is a subcompact car available as a sedan or as a hatchback known as the Rio five-door. Both are available in LX, EX and SX trim levels.

The base LX comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, air-conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB audio jack and satellite radio. The Power package (requires the optional automatic transmission) adds power windows and locks, and keyless entry.

The EX includes the Power package and also adds cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, center console storage and armrest, Bluetooth phone connectivity and two additional speakers. The Convenience package adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, foglights, power-folding mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, upgraded interior materials and the UVO electronics interface, which includes a small touchscreen control interface, voice controls, iPod control and Bluetooth audio connectivity. The Eco package adds a fuel-saving automatic stop-start system.

The Rio SX includes the Convenience package items plus 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and running lights, dual exhaust tips, steering-wheel-mounted transmission paddle shifters and metal-trimmed pedals. The Premium package adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a navigation system that brings with it a larger touchscreen interface and real-time traffic. It also deletes UVO.

Driving: As we've tested only SX versions of the Kia Rio, these impressions pertain mostly to that trim, which provides larger wheels and tires and firmer suspension tuning than the LX and EX models. The Rio SX is competent around turns, but it's definitely not the best handling car in this class. In addition, the Kia's ride is choppy bordering on harsh, depending on the condition of the pavement. If a softer ride is important to you, the EX is likely a better bet. If you're looking for a small car that feels a little more sophisticated in the way it rides and handles, the Sonic and Fiesta are worth a test-drive.

The 2015 Kia Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder is one of the more powerful engines in this class, and overall, acceleration is impressive for a subcompact. The engine gets a bit noisy during hard acceleration, and that, along with considerable amounts of wind and tire noise (with the SX's 17-inch wheels and tires), keeps the cabin from feeling serene.

What’s New: The Kia Rio carries over unchanged for 2015.

Every 2015 Kia Rio comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the LX. A six-speed automatic is optional on that trim and standard on the rest. In Edmunds testing, a Rio SX sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, which is a full second quicker than average for the segment.

EPA-estimated fuel economy rings up at 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway) with both available transmissions. This is average fuel economy for the segment, but a few competitors are even thriftier.

The Eco package adds an auto stop-start system that shuts the engine down when the car comes to a stop and restarts it when the driver lifts off the brake. But having it increases fuel economy by only 1 mpg in the city -- the combined and highway EPA figures remain the same.

Safety: Every 2015 Kia Rio comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill start assist, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional on the EX and standard on the SX. In Edmunds brake testing, an SX came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is average for the segment.

In government crash testing, the Rio received four out of five stars for overall crash protection with four stars for total frontal and rollover protection and five stars for total side protection. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was a mixed bag. It received the top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact and roof-strength tests, as well as a "Good" for its seat and head restraint design (for whiplash protection). However, the Rio received the second-best rating of "Acceptable" for side-impact protection and a "Marginal" rating (the third of four possible scores) in the IIHS' small-overlap frontal-offset test.

Pro: Stylish inside and out; ample standard and optional features; high-quality interior materials on EX and SX; long warranty; strong acceleration; feels bigger than it is.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Kia Rio is a solid pick for a small sedan or hatchback. It's not quite as refined as some class-leading rivals, but it might still win you over with its inviting cabin, strong engine performance and excellent value.

Introduction: Just because a car is small and inexpensive doesn't mean you have to sacrifice features, style or the ability to cart about some friends. The proof of that can be seen everywhere you look in the subcompact car segment, with numerous desirable models working hard to erase the negative memories often associated with this historically crummy vehicle segment. With the 2015 Rio, Kia certainly is doing its part. The agreeable Rio stands out with its generous features list, surprisingly roomy interior and grown-up styling inside and out.

"Grown-up" really would be the optimum expression to describe the Rio. Its exterior is notably European in appearance, with the sedan in particular avoiding the awkward proportions of its competitors. And although the base LX trim is rather bare-bones, the EX and SX step things up considerably with higher-quality interior materials and near-luxury levels of equipment that are sure to make you forget that you're in such a small car. Plus, even when loaded up with things like heated leather seats, navigation and all of the entertainment features you could hope for, the Rio's MSRP just nudges above $21,000. That may seem like a lot for a small car, but if you prioritize getting the most equipment for your money (rather than size), the Rio is quite the bargain.

If it sounds as if we're fans of the Kia Rio, it's because we are. However, this little Kia's biggest drawback is that it lacks the sophisticated driving manners found in other top small cars, like the Chevrolet Sonic, 2015 Ford Fiesta and 2015 Honda Fit. They offer more composed rides and more engaging handling. The Rio's fuel economy also trails that of most competitors (although 31 mpg combined is still pretty thrifty), and no subcompact comes close to matching the Fit's interior space and versatility. Overall, the Rio is a solid offering for this class and worth a look, especially if getting a lot of features for the money is a priority.

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